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Thursday, September 20, 2018, 19:00 - 21:30

An Immigrant Family in Japan Faces an Uncertain Future
Sneak Preview Screening: "PASSAGE OF LIFE (Boku no Kaerubasho)"
followed by a Q&A with director Akio Fujimoto,
producer Kazutaka Watanabe and star Khin Myat Thu

Thursday, September 20 at 7:00 pm09202018 Passage of Life 356p
In Japanese, Burmese with English and Japanese subtitles
Japan/ Myanmar 2017 98 minutes

Directed, written and edited by: Akio Fujimoto
Produced by: Kazutaka Watanabe, Fumito Yoshida
Starring: Kaung Myat Thu, Khin Myat Thu, Issace, Htet Myat Naing,
Yuki Kitagawa, Niina Kuromia, Kanji Tsuda

Film courtesy of E.x.N K.K.

Even before its world premiere at the 2017 Tokyo International Film Festival, the tiny indie docufiction "Passage of Life" was already earning big buzz. A timely synergy of heartfelt family drama with torn-from-the-headlines social issues, it would go on to win both the Spirit of Asia Award and the Best Asian Future Film Award at TIFF - the first time a Japanese director had been so honored.

It would also become an international festival circuit favorite, screening at two dozen festivals in 14 nations, winning awards in the Netherlands and Thailand, and picking up a slew of critical accolades.

Finally, the film is poised for its Japanese theatrical debut, and it is an absolute must-see. Told with unusual poignancy and empathy, featuring extraordinary performances by a cast of unknowns, it paints in broad strokes the final weeks before a loving family is separated, perhaps permanently.

"Passage of Life" drops us without preamble into the lives of a Burmese family who immigrated to Japan without visas, as many others began doing in the wake of the 8888 Uprising (1988 pro-democracy demonstrations) in Myanmar.

Arriving in Tokyo after their two sons, Kuang (Kaung Myat Thu) and Htet (Htet Myat Naing) are born, the parents find illegal work and create a happy life with their boys - although Kuang, now 7, and Htet, 4, believe they are Japanese and have the attitudes to go with it ("Idiot!" yells Kuang at his mother when he doesn't want to do as she asks).

After several years of residency, the father (Issace) files papers explaining they left their country because "it was no longer safe," and requests political refugee status. But the request is denied, as happens all too frequently in Japan (which accepts only a handful of refugees each year). Then one night, Immigration shows up at the door and warns Issace to stop working. His wife Khin (Khin Myat Thu) pleads with him to leave: "We can't be safe, not even in our own home. We're trembling in fear. What will we do if we're turned down again?"

With options fast dwindling, their only choice is to go back to Myanmar, and Khin takes the boys to her home village, where they will grapple with their loss of friends and Japanese identity - as well as their distance from Issace, who has stayed in Japan, to continue working so he can send them money. But Skype calls are not the same as being there.

Fujimoto was inspired to make "Passage to Life" after meeting members of the Burmese community in Tokyo and hearing of their tribulations. With assistance from the Japan-Myanmar Media and Culture Association, the Japan-Myanmar coproduction went before the cameras in 2014 with a cast and crew of just 30, both Japanese and Burmese.

Please join us for this sneak preview of the engaging and deeply moving "Passage of Life," prior to the film's Japanese release on October 6.

For the trailer: https://youtu.be/YH1YMpEjFjE

Writer-director AKIO FUJIMOTO received a psychology degree before pursuing filmmaking at the Osaka Visual Arts Academy. He earned accolades for his first short, "Psychedelic Family" (2012). In 2013, he began planning his debut feature, "Passage of Life." It won the Spirit of Asia Award and Best Asian Future Film Award upon its world premiere at the 2017 Tokyo International Film Festival. Fujimoto produced the Japan-Myanmar coproduction "My Country My Home" (2017), and is now based in Yangon, Myanmar, involved in TV programs, documentaries and preparing for his next project.

Producer KAZUTAKA WATANABE worked in a range of film industry and film festival positions before establishing his own company in 2014, to support film production from A to Z, through the creation of subtitles. His first feature film as producer was "Ganguro Gals Riot (2016)." "Passage of Life" is his second film.

First-time actress KHIN MYAT THU was born in Yangon, Myanmar, and came to Japan just after college graduation. She is the real-life mother of the two young boys in "Passage of Life," Kaung and Htet, and says she decided to act in the film because, "I felt a strong affinity for the film's themes. Being a Burmese resident in Japan, I did it for the sake of other Burmese people, for I thought it would be the best way to represent some aspects of the Burmese population in Japan. Above all, I did it because my son Kaung wanted to be in the film and I felt it would be best if I was by his side."

Please make your reservations at the FCCJ Reception Desk (3211-3161) or register below. You may attend the Q&A session without attending the screening, but you will not have seating priority. All film screenings are private, noncommercial events primarily for FCCJ members and their guests.

- Karen Severns, Film Committee

09202018 Passage of Life 290p.jpg
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